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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ghoul School (1990): Too Ghoul for School

ghoul school 1990

When a group of dim-witted criminals attempt to steal a fortune in cash from a high school basement, they accidentally unleash a poison into the school’s water supply, resulting in the swim team and a handful of other students becoming flesh-eating ghouls. The only people who can stop this outbreak from breaking out are a couple of horror geeks, Jeff and Steve (Scott Gordon and William Friedman), a five-man basketball team and the baddest rock band of all time, the Bloodsucking Ghouls. Will they be able to expel this ghoulish nightmare, or find themselves stuck in permanent detention?

Written and directed by Timothy O’Rawe, Ghoul School is an immensely low-budget horror comedy that somehow, someway delivers the goods despite being riddled with issues. Comically bad acting is sporadically laced throughout the film, which is often enhanced by post-production dialogue so ridiculous that it would almost seem like they were doing it on purpose to get a laugh. Furthermore, the editing is amateurish at best, featuring an abundance of awkwardly edited and staged moments of dialogue where characters seem as if they are in two completely different planes of existence.

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Despite a runtime of 70 minutes, Ghoul School has a whole lot going on. There are a number of parallel storylines that, regardless of coming together in the film’s finale, seem to be nothing more than nonsensical filler. With horror junkies Jeff and Steve being the obvious leads, the film mainly focuses on them as they sneak into the AV room to watch a bootleg of the latest zombie gore film before the ghoul outbreak occurs. During this time, there are sections of the film dedicated to the Bloodsucking Ghouls, who come equipped with mullets, massive amounts of fringe, cheetah print, and weight-lifting gloves, all things you want and need in a hair-metal band. What the viewer does not get, however, is a taste of "the best goddamn rock 'n roll singer in New York," because their performance suspiciously lacks vocals.

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Keeping the film’s momentum at a crawl is the worst basketball practice ever hosted by the worst coach ever who is forcing the varsity basketball team to practice an extra hour because they suck. What follows are an abundance of sporadic scenes where the viewer is privy to the basketball team lazily taking practice shots and arguing with one another about who’s the gayest. All of these characters eventually come to play a part in the film as a whole, but in all reality this poorly executed build up adds nothing of real value to the film in the scenes leading up to that point. Well, outside of laughable entertainment value, that is.

As out of place as the basketball practice may seem, it holds not a candle to the random scenes featuring Joe Franklin and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, both of whom make an appearance as themselves. Serving absolutely no purpose to the film whatsoever, these are clearly nothing more than cameos that came in exchange for favors, or in the case of Martling, self promotion. There are a handful of characters wearing a T-shirt that says “I stumped Jackie the Joke Man!!” as well as a moment where one of Martling’s videos is playing in the background. The most egregious and absurd moment comes from a scene where Martling literally spends 5 minutes telling jokes to Franklin in an office. It’s absolute madness.

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While issues are aplenty, Ghoul School is thoroughly enjoyable in a way where its many problems actually add to the film in a positive way. The film somehow retains a level of horror-loving earnestness, which I think can be attributed to it being made by people who genuinely love the genre. Of course, the time period in which the film was made adds to the amusement, especially because it comes at a time when we weren’t all so self-aware. Those who nostalgically cherish the 1980s through modern-day retro-entertainment should enjoy watching a movie such as Ghoul School, as it genuinely delivers much of the same absurd amusement during an era that so many try to capture.

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